The Qing period saw both the flowering of Buddhism in Mongolia as well as the arrival of new infectious diseases such as smallpox and syphilis which had reached epidemic levels by the 17th to early 20th centuries. During that critical period, a considerable number of Mongolian Buddhist scholars produced a substantial amount of works dedicated to the ways of fighting epidemics. This paper explores the efforts of Mongolian Buddhist scholars in countering this new threat, within the unique social and political milieu of the time.
By 1918, the number of monks amounted to 105,577 which is nearly half (44.5%) of men in Khalkha Mongolia. By this time there were also some 1600 temples and 100,000 monks in Inner Mongolia. Since fully ordained monks were not allowed to marry [and women were not allowed to ordain], a considerable number of women remained unmarried. These circumstances left the possibility open for many extramarital sexual relations which, in turn, contributed greatly to the spread of syphilis.
This article examines the works of three renowned Mongolian Buddhist scholars who dealt with these issues of infectious diseases: Ye shes dpal ‘byor, Chakhar Géshé Lobsang Tsültim, and Lobsang chos ‘phel.